Been reading up on POWs during WWI and I came across the memoir of James Gerard, the US ambassador to Germany at the outbreak of the war, who pioneered the inspection of POW camps in Germany. I was fascinated by his description of the evacuation of American citizens from Germany after the start of the war, via special trains to Holland, steerage passages purchased in bulk by the US Embassy, emergency passports, and American Express traveller’s cheques (oh, sorry, traveler’s checks) cashed by special arrangement with German banks. The large part of the work went on in the ballroom of the US embassy in Berlin, administered by a hastily formed relief committee officials’ wives.
My mother, on her deathbed, was pressed by her sister to admit that she had, on occasion, potentially, one might say, exaggerated a little bit. Her answer:
“Of course I exaggerated. It makes a better story.”
Everything I learned as a child I now call into question. It took me years — years — to realise that popping bubble wrap does not, in fact, release toxins into the environment. My mom just wanted to save the bubble wrap to reuse. Fair enough.
Did the cat of my pioneer ancestors really experience immaculate conception after having walked across the plains and found herself the sole cat in Utah? Did she really burrow a tunnel through the snow to carry her kittens, one by one, from the barn into the warm kitchen, from whence each kitten later sold for the price of a horse?
How to get to the bottom of it? No wonder I became a historian.
My cats, neither immaculately conceived nor pioneers.